Online outlets are winning the battle against traditional broadcasters but not yet the war

There is a shift occurring. Put a stethoscope to your TV screen, your radio and your thumb-worn print magazines. They need help. Because attitudes towards traditional media channels and the brands that lead them have changed. Consumers’ lifestyles have changed. They want everything and they want it now, something we delved into in our recent Audiences Unbound study.

We have identified a fast growing group we’ve labelled the Unbound Audience – a group that actively rejects traditional media, spanning mainstream audiences from Generation Z to Baby Boomers. It isn’t a fad or niche behaviour. It isn’t just one fringe minority trying to usurp the norm. It’s real and accelerating, and traditional outlets are struggling to keep up and are incapable of delivering the varied content and flexibility consumers long for.

Accommodating modern lifestyles

Traditional media no longer reflects the way many people live their lives, and our study has confirmed this perception. Consumers nowadays lead unpredictable lifestyles that don’t align with schedules and consuming in specific locations, and many do not have the money, space or time to fill their homes with media collections. From light entertainment on Saturday evenings to political shows on Sunday mornings, TV schedules often follow a strict regime that reflects the homes of the 70s and 80s. With nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of the Unbound Audience saying scheduled TV no longer fits with their lifestyle, the digital consumer is more likely to want to binge-watch the latest Netflix series on a Saturday evening rather than sit down to the latest light entertainment from Ant and Dec.

We have busy lives and we only tend to have an hour a day to watch TV and we want to be able to watch what we want and not just what happens to be on TV

Diversity is key

Not only are these newer digital outlets offering improved accessibility; they’re also dishing out what traditional outlets have yet to match: diversity. Our research reveals that traditional outlets have to up their game and enhance the choices on offer.

The industry has already witnessed this with Amazon Prime Video and Netflix-exclusive deals being signed for major commissions including Orange is the New Black, The Grand Tour and House of Cards. At the same time as the big budget streaming titles that were often cited as their favourites from the past year, Unbound Audiences also spend much of their viewing time watching vloggers on YouTube and are more likely to ‘tune in’ to the latest video from the likes of Zoella over following a scheduled series on the main channels. Achieving this variety of content is something traditional outlets just can’t match on a scheduled basis; more than half (57 per cent) of all content consumers say that UK TV channels don’t reflect their personal tastes.

I’m a busy person on the go and I don’t have a lot of downtime so I like something that is easy to access, relevant and in short bursts that I can access in between when I’m busy

Put simply, there’s a need for traditional mediums to refresh their offering and properly cater to these influential audiences if they want to survive. With YouTube being named the top media brand for content consumers (ahead of the BBC and other TV channels), it’s clear this outlet combines the variety audiences seek in terms of content, format and creators. For example, we know that Unbound consumers feel more positive towards YouTube than the BBC on delivering great content for them, and amongst younger Unbound consumers, Netflix also proves more popular. It’s only time before these younger audiences start questioning the value they get from the BBC and pay TV platforms.

Streaming services only go so far

While a plethora of connected devices, fast broadband and good value streaming services have brought the media space closer than ever to meeting the needs of modern homes, new frustrations are emerging amongst the Unbound Audience. By signing up to Netflix or Amazon Prime, consumers have thousands of TV shows and films at their fingertips, yet our study found that two thirds (67 per cent) of the Unbound Audience still feel there’s a content gap. The fragmented nature of content across these services leads to frustrations and can limit consumer loyalty to online services, with nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of Unbound consumers saying they would happily switch to different on demand services if the content didn’t match their needs.

We know that faceless algorithms are not helping the matter. Filter bubbles and algorithmic codes often surface and promote content that creates a so-called ‘echo chamber’ – more of the same and a narrow view of everything these services have to offer. Unbound consumers are growing weary of the same old content being funnelled to them - they want variety and actively seek out a wide range of material that suits their preferences, from screwball comedy through to hard hitting documentaries.

Clumsy advertising is another factor that impacts the online consumption experience. Adverts that interrupt preferred viewing and listening behaviours, are often overly long or more importantly, not relevant, are hugely unfavourable in the eyes of Unbound consumers. With their viewing, reading and listening habits being dictated by their schedule rather than the other way around, personalised and specific advertising is much more appreciated and seamlessly slides into the Unbound consumer way of life. Disrupt their new and improved ways of watching and listening and it can do your brand more damage than good.

After all, the Unbound consumer has a simple goal – they require content that is tailored to their needs, and it’s time all media outlets fully take heed and deliver on these desires before they find themselves lost in the audience wilderness.